Cephas and Donovan return with a brand new season of everybody’s favourite podcast. In the booth this week is Primitive’s Miles Silvas. As always, very good pod!
Starting Again - Concrete Girls
Who are you?
I’m Charlotte Thomas (or Cole since I got married) and I am the founder / creative director of Concrete Girls. That's what I'm working on, I’ve been skateboarding for 20 years.
What is Concrete Girls?
It was originally a book project, basically I've been a skateboarder for a long long time. I broke my coccyx in 2013. I still wanted to be in the scene whilst injured. I just started taking photos for 5 years. It's so vast now but at the time the girls scene was small, it was a snapshot rather than a ‘scene book’ though that would have made it a much larger project especially now haha. It was completely self-funded, I'm really proud of it. It was a love project which was supposed to be in volumes, with the emerging scene being next. But with zero budget and money it kind of went out onto the back-burner.
Where are you at with Concrete Girls now?
Over the pandemic I shut it all down and I shut off, I lost my daughter during birth. It was my nightmare and with that grief I took it out on every positive connection I had to Concrete Girls. I destroyed it, took it down and got rid of what I attempted to create. I’m very open and honest about how sometimes people's behaviour when they lose someone closest to you especially your baby you aren't yourself at all. I was all ‘fuck the world, I don't need this shit.’
When you grieve you tend to destroy and not move on. That was all over a two year period but I slowly and only recently, maybe sort of 4 months ago, came back to life. My husband and my family pulled me to one side and got me to start being creative again through CG. I looked around and asked my friends whether Concrete Girls, right now, would have a place in skateboarding in the UK.
My question to people like Ry (Gray) and Sam went from ‘I’m old, I’m fat and where did Concrete Girls fit into all of it?’ to ‘Is there still a place for something like this?’ Everyone was positive, they told me it has a place and just as importantly I did too. They recommended going down the hardware route. I want it to be a skateboard brand but with Stef (Nurding) doing Salon, Danni at Girl Skate UK as well as Doyenne, I was worried about stepping on toes.
I always thought more is better, especially when there’s not a lot of women led brands?
To be honest I didn't want any drama. There can be a lot of bitching haha, but obviously that wasn’t the case. I got the graphics out there and people were into it.
I tried to keep the branding the same as the book but I decided to make it more me. The classic font with the board was thrown out and I didn't want to appeal to everyone. What's the point in doing that? It wasn't who I was, I collected sunglasses and red lipstick. I love Billie Holiday and the 50s it had to become a reflection. If people like it, they like and if they don't, well they don't. I didn't want that appealing thing.
When I first started this I was a bit of an asshole about it, I thought about the money and was gutted if no one wanted anything to do with it. At the beginning of the book Grey wasn't interested in any way and I took that to heart, but Henry was entitled to his opinion and knowing what I know now that's okay. It's okay for people to not like what you make. I love his work and didn't understand why he didn't like mine, I was offended because people didn't like what I was doing. I took everything way too personally haha. It might just not be someone's bag, it's not about being cool, there's room for everyone in skateboarding. It's now all me and I'll throw it out there.
"When you grieve you tend to destroy..."
The branding completely changed in that sense but I’ve become more focused on the team aspect rather than myself. I have a big soft spot for Barcelona. I lived there for a year after my time in Leeds, so I've incorporated skaters from there and the UK. I remember in the 2000s it was all that mattered, skateboarding was MACBA trips.
We have Kerri and Emma who have been around forever, Stef and Danni have their own stuff going on. I don't know where it will go but I'm not forcing it like I used to, CG will just grow organically if I let it, rather than force it.
It's interesting you've made deliberate separations from the book and board brand. Has one even fed into the other at all?
I don't even know to be honest, I've been told to engage more and use social media too but without sounding old, I hate the internet and social media. I’m a 90s kid, I find that side of running a brand completely fake and it's a shame. I understand that it has its merits, you can keep in touch with people etc but it doesn’t feel genuine. I couldn’t tell you what shapes or what experiences helped develop Concrete Girls because I just do it and if shops and skaters are buying it, like they did with the book, then I'm happy.
It's simple, it makes me sound kind of like a bitch huh? Haha
I think in my mind, I have zero confidence, and I think as much as I love Concrete Girls, I don't see comments or how it goes.
You skated in Leeds for a longtime do you have any Leeds/Hyde stories?
Well my nickname was 'Charlie Boardslide', I’d just slam constantly and tried so hard. I had zero talent too, but I'd just Boardslide the small rail. The guys would respect me for trying though plus we had a tight family, I'd push and push and push I’d never get it haha. I did get a Heelflip once which was filmed haha. I cherish that shit, it was on VHS, at least someone put that effort in for me.
I just loved turning up, I never felt like there was a divide. Sam, Tom, Dave, Leon and the older lot, we’d all just get on and hang out. Lois would come through who was amazing, I basically nearly failed my degree because of skateboarding.
A one minute video part is my story haha, but Lynners (Joe Lynskey) and Mikey Wright were in it so it made me stoked. I was hyped to look better than I was.
Are there any people or brands out there you think deserve more light?
The team are a reflection of that of who I wanted to show. Emma and Kerri have been around forever and they've been killing it. I'm a fan of of what Salon has been doing, instead of hiding anything (business-wise) Stef was integral helping me with getting the right source for boards. There's also Doyenne in Scotland, but they are on a whole other level.
It's been difficult for brands to source boards, when it came to you first run of decks was it hard to find somewhere?
Everywhere I approached in the UK was a "no" off the cuff. I needed smaller quantities so most of them weren't available. I went abroad to companies in Germany and Spain and again with Brexit it didn't make sense. I just asked Stef and she recommend iFive Distribution, they were a straight up "Yes!". I trust Stef, she's a woman who has gone through all of this before, she's savvy and I highly value her opinion. I got two custom shapes to figure the sizing out and I was happy with the feel, strength and quality and in the end if I was happy with it then I went for it it. If I ride it, then it's fine.
Adam was lovely and it was important to me to have a British made board for CG.
Just touching on Stef's help, what do you think ally-ship looks like within skateboarding especially as women starting independent brands? Is there anything more that can be done?
Buh thats a tough one, I had to ask my husband to use our wedding money to get the boards. Financial backing is everything, I'm so poor whilst doing this project. Some of the other larger sport brands ruin it for me, skating should be soulful, real and genuine. As much as I think they have their place, they are all about domination. If you're going to attempt to dominate or monopolise then why not help bring up smaller brands at the same time and bring them along the journey. Without the skaters and tiny brands there's no soul for them to use. Supporting woman in brands goes beyond just flowing a hundred girls 'x amount' of shoes that destroy the planet. Why not ask them what they want to do and make things come alive?
Skateboarding isn't all about product, I won't use the word 'community' because I hate that word. Just support humans, the Women's scene is still small but that's because we don't know everyone who's running brands. Celebrate and talk, even shout about the people behind the brands.
Things are coming back around though, I'd like to see every small brand elevate each other up. It's not about how many followers you have online, that doesn't mean anything. If you like what each other are doing get together and push it, we don't need to have a massive face online to warrant or deserve help from one another. Why be obsessed when the algorithm is controlling what people see. You wouldn't see us trying to promote ourselves with Penny or non-skateboarding brands for clout.
Yes! We don't need to see someone thanking Polo Mints.
We won't be as successful as we want to be because we won't reach out to ASOS or Urban Outfitters, they don't care about skateboarding. Anything mainstream or massive won't get our help and we don't want theirs.
Let's just all work together and get together more, it doesn't have to be financial or for social gain.
For their social bits hit up their instagram - https://www.instagram.com/concretegirls/
Images provided by Charlotte Thomas
Interview by Fraser
Jobs In Skateboarding International : Lakai Team Manager
After our Jobs In Skateboarding series became a minor-success we've attempted to push who would talk us from across the world. As that outside perspective of lack of jobs began to open up more and more we almost couldn't figure out where the 'careers' in the industry could end up.
Thankfully some willing participants came through and our first is with the delightful Steven Smith who currently upholds the duty of Lakai's Team Manager.
Learn something new below from our way too relaxed conversation and take moment to get acquainted with the rest of the 'Jobs In Skateboarding' interviews here.
What's your name?
What’s your job role and what do you even do?
I do a pretty good mix of both Team Management and Marketing. If I'm on the road for two weeks then my marketing list definitely gets bigger and things pile up. Some people probably don't know that Lakai is a small skeleton crew, there are probably only 8 to 10 of us that run the whole brand. It's pretty bare bones but we all work great together and everything works out. I’m deep in both sides, I do all the team stuff and the marketing/brand stuff too. I’d say there was an even balance and I like it that way, I’d go stir crazy if it was just one or the other.
Sometimes I'm the skate rat on a tour looking after the team and making sure everyone has got what they need but then the marketing side allows me to come up with new projects alongside different brands and collaborate. I get to work on content, building up the calendar and putting out releases. My boss Craig has been with Lakai for 15 years and I take inspiration from him alot. He’s the General Manager and looks after everyone, he develops footwear and talks to factories. It's a balancing act and he puts a lot of trust in me. I've got to take care of my side, it's fun and it keeps me on my toes.
Did you have any roles in the skate industry before this?
I've been lucky enough to be involved in skating since I was a kid. Just being the shit head, skate rat and weaselling my way into the skate shop. I grew up in Santa Cruz at Skate Works which is the Strubing family skate shop Justin, Jason and their dad Phil, they've owned shops across the area for a long time. They gave me a job at 16, gripping boards and cleaning windows. Over the years it became the ‘owning a key’ and locking the door. Moving onto a buyer's responsibility and buying from different brands. It was a great way of learning about the industry. It was a cool way to grow up.
Once I finished college in San Francisco, I was skating for flow on Crailtap and Lakai so I incidentally got my foot in the door before I worked for Lakai. It all came organically. Crail hooked me up, they had my back really hard, I was totally taling to my friend Dan Wheatly ‘I don’t think this pro-skater thing is going to work out for me.’ I wanted to be involved in skating and I went to school for marketing. He was instrumental in me meeting everyone from Mike Caroll and Rick Howard as well as Sam Smyth. Every time a job came up I threw my name in there for any interview. I actually interviewed for the Girl/Chocolate Team Manager, I quit my job as soon as they said I had it, but they jumped the gun on it and it didn't happen haha. It was pretty funny. I never thought I’d be able to get into skateboarding.
How did you find the jump between Lakai flow guy to working for a brand?
Growing up I could only skate, there's a tradition of skateboarding in Santa Cruz. My best friend growing up was Raven Tershy so that says something haha. He's one of the best, I was skating alongside him, even then I could see him progress at a crazy level. With the level that skateboarding is at these days you can see 12 year old kids and know how far they are going to go, that's not to say someone who is a little older couldn’t put in the work and make it happen though. It's possible.
I went to school in San Francisco for marketing & public speaking. Everything I went to college for at the back of my mind applied to. ‘How can I do this in skateboarding?’ I was working at the shop and the thought process was I could open a shop or be a sales rep, but I met the right people too. I thought Dan and Sam had the coolest jobs in the world. In my mind they lived the closest thing to being a pro skater alongside the responsibility of a job. I tried to meet people, network and email a whole bunch everyone. I did my ankle really badly one year and I knew that the sponsored route wasn’t for me, I was hurt and not working. It's weird to say but that injury really sparked me to find a job in skateboarding, I love skateboarding and I want to be in it forever and there was no way it would be through the paid professional skateboarder route. Right place, right time and meeting the right people.
I grew up loving crailtap, Rick and Mike, the brand DNA everything so I knew it all well already. I felt like all of it came together the right way.
On Team Management , do you think it's become easier or actually harder to find someone who fits for a team like Lakai? Would it be preferable now to be sent a tape?
Definitely being a skater and hooking myself down stuff and getting hurt. I related to skaters really well, it helps with the team dudes and kids who are sending footage, you can see and feel the effort. It's crazy and amazing how big skateboarding is, everywhere there are kids skating and every kid is good. Instagram is pushing their progression further and further. For me I'm pretty old school. I want to see a full part and footage, I'm not hating on getting tagged on random clips. I probably did that on MySpace ha. Everyday I get DMed and tagged. I love to see them doing their thing but I still need to see the full part, the old fashioned formula is good. Send over the part, we might get in contact and send some shoes, if that works out we’ll meet up and skate, it should come more organically and I tell the kids it's more up to them than it is to me.
When I get the big question: ‘Is it ever going to happen for me?’ I say be consistent, send footage and come to LA and skate with us. That's what's going to resonate and make stuff happen. There's so much that goes into it. Growing up being that flow kid helps me relate to them and know what to look for.
Does it take a good skateboarder to TM a team, does there come a point where no one is sending it and you’re going to have to do it for them?
Hahaha it definitely helps being able to do it. I’ve been in that position, I'll skate a spot and help get people motivated. I’ve been in a session where you have a team manager, filmer and photographer and if they don't really skate they can’t relate. There’s got to be a mutual understanding that the skater might get hurt and can’t spend hours jumping down stairs, you can’t be there at the spot saying ‘Just land it!’ ‘Keep trying it!’ ‘ Give me what I need!’. I don’t think you have to be a good skateboarder to qualify for a job like this; it just helps for sure. If you don’t it would be hard to even get close to a job like that. It’s just a total plus.
How many people do you look after at the moment?
Oh man, a lot. Just people to make sure they have shoes to skate in? Over a hundred to one hundred and fifty. There are kids all over. I’ve been fortunate to travel a whole lot. I might see a lot of kids and see their potential. I'd rather have kids skating Lakai than anything else, I like it to be a personal relationship even if they live in the middle of nowhere and we only talk twice a year.
When I was coming up, people would make me feel like I was bothering them for a minute of their time. I thought to myself that if i ever ended up in the position of hooking people up or helping them i don't want anyone to feel like that, if you skate Lakai your on the brand and on the team you deserve the time.
Do you remember your first sighting of Lakai?
Carroll’s in the shop when I was kids at skateworks way before I worked for them. A crazy one too, Bill’s Wheels in Santa Cruz had a TV commercial, “Back 2 school sale at Bill’s Wheels!’ I’ll never forget the ad “Shop from the latest selection of footwear from DVS, eS, Vans and Lakai” I was straight up dude what the fuck is Lakai?
Now I'm here and Rick and Mike are the coolest guys in the world, I still trip out on them even though we've been working together for 6 or so years. They are in the morning meeting every monday, they are finding out what's going on all the time, Rick is on every trip too.
Lakai has been on a collabo tirade for a few years now right, what's going on there?
Skateboarding isn’t just skateboarding you know. The fact we can do a project with Black Sabbath, Porous Walker or David Flores we can reach all these new audiences and let them into our world. You are giving the opportunity for someone who may have never skated or heard of Lakai to get involved with the brand. Making Larry June or Ozzy Osbourne shoes is really fun! My favourite thing is the shoe names, I’ve tried to find out the reasons and I've dug but the designer is straight up ‘Cool names right?’.
In our previous interviews Tom Smith says he doesn’t switch off, he said it was the worst thing about his job but it’s also not. I was wondering if you get the same feeling?
Oh man, it's a blessing and a curse. I can genuinely say I love my job and Lakai. I'm a fan of skateboarding, I’ve grown up skating with Lakai on my feet. I love it so much so it is hard to turn it off. The worst thing I guess is explaining to a kid why they shouldn’t be calling me at 11pm on Saturday and Sunday night asking for shoes. I don't want to sound like a dick but I am a normal human. I have a home life and a girlfriend. It can be frustrating but at the end of the day it's not that big of a deal and it can be hard to switch off. I wish I could do it and be a normal person. It's something I've got to learn over time. When I first started the job, if someone emailed me at 2am I would reply. I've got better at it. I run the social media, it's Christmas morning, I shouldn't be on my phone but I have to. If i don't do it, it won't get done. It is more a blessing and a curse. I have a baby on the way, it will be time to check out for a while and click that outgoing on my email.
Any advice for skateboarders out there who want to pursue your line of work?
The best advice I could give, meet as many people as you can, throw your name out there and don't be scared. I emailed people I didn't know. Be personable, be nice to everybody, whatever you put in you will get out. I love skateboarding more than anything, if you put in the work and be motivated, it will happen.
Interview : What is a Worble?
As per our previous statement on Worble, it was the next mentally-viable step to take by reaching out to Worble to find out the details, intricacies and delve into its mind by going underneath the skin of Dave Mull.
Semi-cannibalistic metaphors aside Dave pulled through via the internet to chat to us about the past, present and future of Worble.
Read everything below and get all your Worblest needs in-store and online here!
Photography - Joe Hammeke
Interview - Fraser Doughty
Hi Dave, how are you?
Sorry this took so long it's been a whirlwind, all the adult life stuff has been happening. I’m just trying to keep on track for the next Worble video which we are touring with. I snapped my arm and my cat is undergoing chemo, it's been a tough start to the year.
So the broken arm was the easy bit?
Pretty much, I was working 3 jobs to finally save money in LA and it was a 'nope sorry' from the universe, it's the name of the game right haha i’ll figure it out.
We’ve made no qualms about bigging up Worble and how much we wanted to stock you guys, is Worble's planning to expand?
Yeah we were all dealing with Worble from out of our house, so rooms became shipping areas and we couldn’t spend our time on the stuff we wanted to do, because we all work full-time jobs on the side. We moved and it allowed the brand to get bigger being based in LA.
Full-time job on the side seems like the perfect tagline for Worble.
It definitely is, especially when the ‘side-thing’ takes up just as much work as the job to keep Worble going haha
Who holds the CEO title of Worble now you’ve moved out of Vermont?
Tom has fallen pretty naturally into that side of it, it worked out that way because he spends more time behind the camera and editing. He always filmed more due to his illness, when we were growing up he would have to stop quicker than us but still be on the session filming. He helps direct the agenda for the day for filming so it made sense for him to direct Worble in the right way as well as getting our friends together, pulling artwork and working out the promotional stuff too. President Tom.
Steve I guess is the CFO, he's figuring out our budget and the crazy ups and downs with seasons, shops and everything money wise.
Did anyone say this was a bad idea?
Oh man, I feel like we got more encouragement than discouragement when starting a board brand because people saw that we were bringing something different as a crew, not as much competing with other brands too. We weren't the gnarliest or even whackiest but the most inclusive, when people watch a Worble video they can feel like they are a part of it I hope. The skill levels are all over the place, it's all about fun and just being in the moment. We can fit all the gnarly and creative stuff together, all styles of skating were out there having a blast.
The brother dynamic really helps too, we fuck with each other and push each other, there’s something in Worble that anyone can tap into. It's a place where people can come and reach out to us and collaborate. The future of skateboarding is headed towards everything bigger, gnarlier and teacher. We like all of that but to also foster this positive community and whilst asking the question 'How does that feel?'.
If the word Worble was defined in a dictionary what would it say, is there a “pull a homer” to a Worble?
To us, ‘grubby worm-like organism' is the worble, nobody knows though, it became a new thing. Everyone asks twice what you said, ‘Worble, can you say that again?’ Once someone gets it though they follow it. Even so, we didn’t know the true definition when we chose it. It sounded great even when it’s spelt W-A-R-B-L-E, warbling and rambling like birds spontaneously. It's how we skate and the playfulness of just going out and skateboarding. Worble connects to that.
What's the most worblest thing you've seen?
I never heard anyone say that, “Wobrlest” haha.
Can something be too worble?
We had a grand opening at El Sereno skatepark which was very Worble. We showed up and ran a best trick / fun skate jam, it was a demo but 'with you' I guess. It wasn’t showing off more just skating with our community. We had Manramp show up and the whole public skated with/on him. It made it feel like this is about all of us. He couldn't take too much though haha every kid slamming into you 100 hundred times for a session. There’s only so much the human body can take!
We ended up finishing it off with a Dodgeball game adjacent to the park, anyone and everyone joined in. The violent fun let us take out any anger we had, the Worbledome went off.
Maybe print Worble dogeballs?
We’d have to inflate them all and hire someone with a big lung capacity.
Now that Worble is going legit you could hire an intern who would eventually take you all down from the inside?
Woah we could, just dangle the carrot enough and get stabbed in the back haha, it would be very Peaky Blinders, could I hire Tommy Shelby? I’m rewatching it at the moment.
Would you say Worble has a ‘team’ or is it more a crew?
We do, it's always growing. When you see Worble 3 and Worble 4 coming out that will give you an idea of the team but again it will have the friends clips in there too and those people could still be worblers. The official team helps us navigate where we want to go, you need the core group to go out there and skate, get to know each other and get along, they end up defining the identity but they are more like the heart and soul. Now that we can get boards produced more regularly we’ll be able to start flowing people too. That was hard to do. We want there to be a defined team but they’ll show everyone where the soul is.
"THERE'S ONLY SO MUCH THE HUMAN BODY CAN TAKE!"
Was there a point when Worble hit that next level?
I think there was. I had a personal epiphany. It became something bigger than it would ever be for me when Cobraman played straight after the New Driveway video, that's how prems should go. Skate video soundtracks have those connotations which help you resonate with a video more and you return to it. CobraMan is that for us, their music is part of the video then you get to listen to the live. You can see the whole crew, hang out and see the band all in one night. Once they played the first song and the whole soundtrack I thought, ‘this was so fun, it's surreal and it's becoming something else’.
The aim of the tour this summer is to do the same thing for everyone. One big night all over.
A full tour? It's been a long time since someone has done that.
We have a whole bunch of friends in LA. We have so many creative people around who are willing to help us whether that's filmmaking, photography and even the engineering world. It was big for Worble moving to LA, there were things we just couldn't have done in Vermont. It's a huge advantage being here and making friends in a new place. So, were going on a full US tour, poster and everything.
As a board brand are you guys worried about the intricacies of board shapes?
Everyone is different. We tried all the concave wheelbases and shapes but we found a great middle ground for the team and led a few minimal older shapes. Personally a versatile board is best with a shorter wheelbase. It helps you move quicker and put spots together quickly with a quicker swerve, instead of the wider move and base.
Do you get a crazy amount of sponsor me messages?
Not many people do! They just reach out and spread the love and talk about the worble videos, we love getting that and responding, I’ll take the time here to thank anyone who has watched our videos and taken their time to message us which makes them skate after.
We’re still open to new warblers. We are still growing so it's tough to figure out and to appease our team riders too, but, please send them. We look way bigger than we really are, it's a small group of people doing what they love day-to-day, a whole lot of people get the wrong idea, me and Cookie being pro doesn’t mean we are making a living as sponsored professional skateboarders. Cookie has multiple avenues and he works his ass off. I'm getting paid a little but that's due to my work with the brand and I understand Worble is going to go somewhere if I work on it. We’re distributing more than we’re making just to meet more shops and make new friends. So we will all still work full-time to support the brand.
If that's how it is now, where do you see your skateboarding going?
I’m going to work on everything outside of skating just as much as my skateboarding, I plan to do that my whole life. Skateboarding can’t be the only thing, you’ve got to have other interests. As a skateboarder you’ve got to have something else going on!
So what's the ultimate non-skate activity?
One of the biggest ones now, me and my partner would go on hikes and wonder about the identification of birds, so we downloaded ID guides and field guides, it's so fun. You can go to a location which you would have already hit up for a walk and go birding. You could see a peak or summit and now one of my things is to check every bird popping out and the little nuances that come with them. It's something special, it doesn't have to be the peak of the hike anymore it's what could be on the way. It's a lot like when you go out skating and end up finding new spots and the coolest or most desirable ones to yourself will be on the way. It's all about going out and seeing what you could find, skating and birding except for the birding has less physical risk haha.
Unless a bird of prey takes you away?
Ha it is possible! I’ve been dive bombed a bunch of times around nests but that's their way of getting you to back off.